Learn how to stop the arguments before they escalate.
Conflict-resolution strategies for relationships are now important more than ever.
In January 2020, when you were making your New Year’s resolutions about your life and relationship, you probably never thought that you would be stuck inside with your partner for a couple of months and be ready to call it quits.
Stay-at-home orders changed your life and might have thrown your relationship into a tailspin.
You enjoyed being together. But being unable to take a break from each other has tested your relationship, and you’re not sure if it will endure. Conflict resolution is no longer as simple as before.
In fact, we feel further apart than ever before.
While in quarantine, some couples spent most of their time at home watching Netflix and playing games on their phone. Other couples shouted and yelled from morning until night.
And others stayed in separate rooms or different parts of the house, hoping they would never bump into each other until it was time for bed.
Sometimes, people wished that they could leave the house and retreat to their office for some peace and quiet. But they stayed home, feeling trapped and dreaming of the day they could escape to work, a park, a movie, or Starbucks to sip on a coffee for hours.
You may be wondering, “When will COVID-19 be over, so I can file for divorce, move out, separate, or find a therapist to help us fix our problems?”
It has been very stressful for couples to be quarantined at home for months, and some have really struggled with this adjustment.
In my clinical practice, there’s been an increase in the number of fights among couples who have stated that they are fighting over “stupid stuff.”
On the other hand, other couples shared how they’re fighting over serious differences and perspectives. Many are not sure if their relationship will survive after this period of time.
To successfully move back into “normal life,” here are 5 relationship conflict-resolution strategies.
1. Find a competent marital therapist or coach.
Contact a therapist or coach immediately to address and discuss your issues while in quarantine.
Many therapists are seeing couples via teletherapy and can make an appointment within the week.
2. Suggest a timeline.
If you decide to seek counseling, you can suggest a timeline to determine if you will stay together.
For example, if you decide as a couple to seek counseling and you don’t start within two months, then you might need to reassess your relationship.
Or maybe after starting therapy, you will reassess your relationship after six months.
3. Start noticing what you are arguing about.
You can ask yourself, “Were these topics issues that always existed in your relationship or did they begin during quarantine?”
Some couples realized that since they were busy at work, they were unaware of the differences and challenges in their relationship.
Other couples communicated well together, but the stress of illness, death, quarantine, and work or the loss of a job created a level of tension that was never experienced in their relationship.
4. Be supportive of each other.
Ask yourself, “Are we being supportive of each other?”
For example, many of my clients are more anxious, stressed out, more sensitive, and irritable at this time. These people are looking to their partner for extra support.
Therefore, you may need to learn how to address issues and help each other through these challenges.
5. Explore your options.
Prior to quarantine, some couples were already discussing the possibility of splitting up, but were forced to stay together because of COVID-19. If you were in this situation and endured feeling trapped and unable to leave, this is the time to explore your options.
Has anything changed? Do you want to take a few weeks away to explore your options before settling on a plan?
If so, do you have a friend or relative that you can stay with temporarily? If this appeals to you, speak with your partner to discuss your plans and goals for the time apart.
If leaving your home isn’t an option, can you separate somehow within the house? For example, one partner can stay upstairs and the other partner can stay in another bedroom or downstairs.
If you’re set on your decision to leave your relationship, it’s time to explore your options from a more permanent perspective.
And remember, if there are children involved, you need to discuss how to speak with them about this new arrangement and your plans for their care, among many other things.
6. Try to identify how you tried to resolve your differences and conflicts in the past.
Consider writing in a journal or taking a quiet walk to clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship.
Since you have put time and energy into your relationship, you may consider reading a book or watching a podcast about relationships to determine if you can salvage it.
While still in quarantine, be cautious about making any major life decisions right now because sometimes people feel differently when they are not under a high degree of external stress.
However, if you find yourselves still fighting and disagreeing even after you got back to “normal life,” then you may need to consider other decisions and possibilities.
There is help available and options that can help determine the best decision for your relationship.
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC, is a Certified Gottman Therapist in Baltimore, MD. She helps couples on the brink of breakup to repair unresolved issues, increase their intimacy, and navigate the future. If your relationship is in crisis, reach out to Lisa Today.